In Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?, mother and daughter Robin Marantz Henig and Samantha Henig compare the early adulthood plights of boomers and Millennials.
What surprised you most while researching this book?
Robin Marantz Henig: I thought that I was going to be vindicated in my belief that my two daughters are missing out on the best time to have a child, but in studies that looked at the broader picture of the mother’s overall longevity and health, the ideal time to have a baby is more like 34.
Samantha Henig: I was surprised by how optimistic young people are even in the face of the recession. One survey asked 20-somethings if they thought the American dream was achievable; seven out of 10 said yes. That sort of optimism doesn’t fully jibe with what’s happening around us.
Robin, when did it occur to you to bring Sam on board? And Samantha, how did you feel about writing with your mom?
RMH: I realized pretty quickly that it would be wonderful to work together as peers.
SH: This seemed like a great opportunity because I actually like working with my mother, which a lot of people may find strange.
Was the process fairly smooth?
RMH: Surprisingly smooth.
SH: It was a little imbalanced by design. We knew going into it that this was going to be her full-time job and that I was doing it on top of a full-time job.
Are young adults not really as “stuck” as their parents might believe?
RMH: Yes, that’s our take-away message. Young adults are going through a process of growing up and trying things out. They may take longer to reach some of the milestones of adulthood, but they’re not stuck. It’s all part of the process.
SH: A lot of this stuff is really the same as it was for baby boomers. The same people who are fretting so much about their 20-something kids actually went through these same stages of confusion and stagnation when they were young.
Which differences stand out?
RMH: The options seem more limitless now. The Web changes everything about both what information you get and what your options are. And the cost of student loans, college, and grad school make schooling decisions quite different.
SH: Yes, the college loan burden is a really big difference.
What’s your advice for parents who are freaking out?
RMH: To put the situation in historical perspective and trust in the kids figuring things out eventually.
SH: Don’t freak out. A lot of people are going through periods of quarter-life crisis and from what we’ve seen anecdotally and from research, many come out okay. And maybe these same parents even went through a quarter-life crisis and came out okay. It doesn’t help a struggling young person to have frenzied parents breathing down his or her neck.
What do you hope the book will give your readers?
RMH: Information and comfort. And I hope it will start a conversation between parents and kids. It’s a very emotional time, and it would be a lot better if everybody just took a breath and talked things through.
SH: A sense of perspective. I hope that 20-somethings will feel calmer about where they are compared to everyone else, and that the book will also give perspective to parents who are so freaked out. Having a kid who is unemployed doesn’t mean that your kid is unemployable.